Role of Special Envoy on Preserving Holocaust Remembrance and Combatting Antisemitism to be made permanent, Trudeau tells conference

Justin Trudeau spoke via video at the Malmo International Forum on Holocaust Remembrance and Combatting Antisemitism, Oct. 13, 2021. (Credit: CPAC)

Video and transcript of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s remarks to the Malmo International Forum on Holocaust Remembrance and Combatting Antisemitism, Oct. 13, 2021:

Thank you Prime Minister Löfven for bringing us together for this important—and necessary—forum. 

Today’s discussions will allow us to continue developing a common international approach to fighting antisemitism. 

Canada is deeply concerned by the surge of antisemitism both at home and abroad.

We must work together to promote inclusion and respect for diversity around the world.

Because no one should fear to practice their religion or to express their Jewish identity.

And no one should face hatred in their own neighbourhood, no matter where they live.

That’s why we must continue to stamp out hate wherever it rears its ugly head. 

Already, Canada has been very engaged.

In 2019, we developed a national anti-racism strategy. As part of this strategy, we adopted the working definition of antisemitism developed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.

We will continue to firmly support it, just like we will continue supporting the IHRA. 

We hope that others will join too, increasing the number of countries embracing this important definition. 

Canada will also continue to expand publicly accessible Holocaust-related remembrance and education materials and bring awareness to the dangers of antisemitism.

On Nov, 25, 2020, we appointed Irwin Cotler as Canada’s Special Envoy on Preserving Holocaust Remembrance and Combatting Antisemitism.

His mandate is to help advance Holocaust education, preserve the stories of survivors through younger generations, and combat domestic and global antisemitism.

As part of our pledge, we’re now making the Special Envoy role permanent and supported by dedicated resources. 

This is in line with Canada’s commitment to promote and defend pluralism, inclusion, and human rights.

Education and awareness will always be key to combating Holocaust distortion, antisemitism, and all other forms of racism. 

That’s why, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Canada announced $2 million in support of a UNESCO initiative in partnership with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. 

The goal of this initiative is to address the rise of discrimination through education and intercultural dialogue.

In July, we convened a National Summit on Antisemitism in Canada. 

We discussed threats and challenges faced by Jewish communities directly with government leaders, parliamentarians, members of civil society and religious groups.

We also talked about our commitment to continue fighting hate and radicalization online.

While social media has profound positive effects on society, it also has a role in enabling harmful content, like hate speech.

Canada has supported UN resolutions that acknowledge the role technology plays in enabling online hate and abuse. 

Domestically, our government has committed to introducing new legislation to address online harms.

Antisemitism isn’t a problem for the Jewish community to solve alone—it’s everyone’s challenge to take on, especially governments.

And that’s why we’ll develop and implement a National Action Plan on Combatting Hate, working in concert with Jewish communities and our Special Envoy.

Combatting racism is something that we all need to do together.

With prevention, education, and action, Canada will always be there to stand up for inclusion, respect, and human rights.

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In response to Trudeau’s remarks, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) and its Jewish Federation partners said they have been advocating for the role of Special Envoy on Preserving Holocaust Remembrance and Combatting Antisemitism to be made permanent for several years.

Trudeau’s announcement that it would be, with dedicated resources, “represents a milestone for the Jewish community and Jewish Federations across Canada,” said CIJA CEO Shimon Koffler Fogel in a news release. “We are pleased to see that the government has heeded our advice, and we thank them for being our allies in the fight against the scourge of antisemitism and for their continuous and unambiguous support for the IHRA definition of antisemitism, an important tool to combat Jew-hatred,” Fogel said.

Joel Reitman, national co-chair of CIJA’s board of directors, added:

“This is a positive development in the struggle against antisemitism. It accompanies the government’s commitment to fighting hate and intolerance and sets the tone for combating Jew-hatred for years to come. Having the position of Special Envoy and appropriate resources to support it entrenched in the Ministry of Heritage demonstrates that the government’s new mandate includes a renewed commitment to combating antisemitism.”

Yesterday, B’nai Brith Canada congratulated Trudeau for leading the Canadian delegation to the conference, as it had urged him to do.

B’nai Brith had also written to Foreign Minister Marc Garneau asking Canada to enhance resources available to Cotler to include a budget and staff; that Canada introduce legislation to attack online hate; for “substantial” funding to promote education about antisemitism in Canada; and to support organizations that actively promote tolerance and cooperation.

“The government has heard B’nai Brith,” said Marvin Rotrand, national director of B’nai Brith’s League for Human Rights. “We anticipate that much of our proposal to Minister Garneau in our letter sent Oct. 4 will be incorporated into Canada’s pledge. We view this as a true affirmation that the government will not allow the haters to continue to spew their venom. There should be no hiding—not even in the shadows.”

B’nai Brith CEO Michael Mostyn also praised Canada for signing the UN Human Rights Council’s statement on antisemitism offered by Austria, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia, initially signed by 43 countries, but not Canada.

“Canada’s commitments for Malmo will reassure the Jewish community that the government is addressing antisemitism and will enhance dialogue between the government and B’nai Brith,” Mostyn said. “This can only be viewed as a positive step in the right direction.”

In a tweet, Stephane Dion, Special Envoy to the European Union and Canada’s ambassador to Germany, who also attended the conference, said Ottawa “is determined to strengthen its unrelenting fight against antisemitism, including via online media.”